What’s your favorite thing to do to relax? Read! Seriously, I’ve been hooked on books since I was a kid, starting out with Hardy Boys adventures. I read about a book each week, unless it’s one of Stephen King’s gigantic tomes that go beyond 700 pages. That takes me a bit more time.
If you could go back in time to when you were seven years old, what wisdom or advice would you pass on to yourself? Wow, that’s a great question. I’d probably encourage my younger self to write more and see where those stories take me. That could have led to a different educational path and even more adventures for me and my characters.
For what are you grateful? My family, first and foremost. I’ve been married for over thirty years to my sweetheart and we’ve raised two remarkable young men together. My working life has led me to several unusual careers, which in turn has provided many great stories and experiences. That includes the chance to teach at the local college, which I’m really enjoying.
At what age were you the happiest? What triggered such joy? Probably in my early thirties. That’s when the kids came into the picture. Seeing life through their eyes and their activities was precious. Recalling some of their youthful stunts always makes me smile.
What is the number one lie you tell yourself? How is that working out? That I’m a good cook. I don’t complain when it’s my turn in the kitchen. There are a few specialty dishes I make that always turn out well, but I’m a long way from being proficient in the culinary department. At least, I haven’t burned the place down yet!!
Now about you as an author…
What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult? As an avid reader, I quickly grew bored with the Hardy Boys and similar stories. Mysteries always appealed to me, but I could never get into the Agatha Christie books. In my early teens, I discovered John D. MacDonald, who created the Travis McGee series, along with a number of other novels. McGee was not your typical hero, but one I could identify with. From there it was Elmore Leonard with his crime stories. Then I shifted gears and discovered Stephen King, John Sandford, Joseph Wambaugh and so many others.
Did anyone in your life influence you or encouraged you to be a writer? (teacher, family member, friend)
I went to Catholic schools, both elementary and high school. (I’ll pause here for you to express your sympathies!) There was a nun in elementary school who taught English. One day the homework was to write a short story. Afterwards, she said, “You’re pretty good at making things up.” I hoped that was in reference to the assignment. There was also a creative writing professor in college who encouraged me to submit short stories to a literary magazine. There was a young lady in college who knew I loved to read. She gave me a book that she enjoyed. Thirty pages in, I figured out who done it and why, but I kept reading to see if I was right. Turned out I was. When I gave it back to her and told her that, she scowled and said “if you’re so damned smart, why don’t you write one?” I had to take her up on that challenge. (Wonder whatever happened to her…)
What is your favorite aspect or writing? Your least favorite? Writing dialogue between my characters is absolutely my favorite thing to do. It gives me the opportunity to convey all the emotions that the scene may warrant, whether it’s serious, tense, humourous or sarcastic. Getting the dialogue right is vital to the story. It’s got to be true for the character. Not everyone speaks in complete sentences. When it comes together, it’s a kick to sit back, reread that passage and think to myself ‘damn, that was good!’ My least favorite aspect is marketing. I know it’s essential, but it takes me away from the actual writing of the stories.
What aspect of writing would you most like to improve on? Editing. It’s a necessary evil, but it can be difficult, especially if you’re in the process of reading over the manuscript for the fifth or sixth time. I think it’s better to walk away from the story for a week or two, then come back with fresh eyes.
Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing? Music. There’s gotta be music. It’s essential to life. I cannot work in silence, it’s too distracting. I’m all over the board with music, (no rap, country or opera). Sometimes the music helps set the pace. If it’s an action scene, there is a good bet rock and roll is playing. For romance, I’ll dial up something smooth, like Sinatra, or Marvin Gaye.
Do you have a common theme or item that appears in each of your books? All of my stories take place in Michigan. The three Jamie Richmond novels are set in the Detroit area. “Stealing Haven” the short story that is part of “Once Upon a Summer” happens in South Haven, a resort area on the shore of Lake Michigan. I prefer to use locations that are real and familiar to me. Oftentimes a reader will recognize a landmark and can related to it in the story.
Jamie and her best friend Linda are ready for a relaxing vacation in South Haven, on the shore of Lake Michigan. Sunshine, sandy beaches, good friends, food and wine are on the menu: a long awaited reprieve from their daily lives in Motown.
Yet things rarely go as planned for Jamie. The curious redhead is surprised when she catches the eye of Randy, a handsome local man. Sparks fly and we’re not talking about a bonfire. At the same time, Jamie learns of a local home invasion that gets her reporter’s instincts churning. Could someone have the audacity to disrupt this peaceful haven?
Soon Jamie and Linda find themselves working with local authorities to stop the robberies and catch the bad guys. Because South Haven is paradise. And nobody should be stealing haven.
What have you learned the most from being in the writing business? Rule number one: Never stop writing. Rule number two: Listen to your publisher and editors. Take their suggestions into consideration. They are probably smarter than you are. Rule number three: Share your efforts and successes with others who are interested in writing. I don’t have any secrets about the work. Rule number four: See rule number one.
Tell us about your latest release: (blurb, excerpt, cover)
My latest release is “Your Turn to Die” . This is the second book in the Jefferson Chene mystery series. One of the parts that worked so well in this book was the appearance of Jamie Richmond. Jamie is such a great character that it’s difficult to keep her out of the action. So while Chene is the protagonist in this novel, Jamie plays a major role in unraveling the mystery. And the interactions between her and Chene were very realistic. I can still hear them squabbling.
BLURB: It was supposed to be a friendly round of paintball. But blood, not paint, covers Kyle Morrissey’s body. Though admired by the public for his charity, the businessman was no choirboy. Could it be that more than one person wanted him dead?
Sergeant Jefferson Chene and his detective squad catch the case. With two new faces on the team, he finds himself in the unfamiliar role as mentor. He is also cautiously beginning a relationship with Simone Bettencourt, the beautiful woman he met while pursuing a serial murderer. Complicating the case are two retired gangsters, a fortune in jewels, and Detroit’s history of organized crime. But the squad must utilize every resource available to catch a killer.
EXCERPT: Here’s an excerpt from “Your Turn to Die”. Sergeant Jefferson Chene and the major case detectives are investigating the homicide of Kyle Morrissey, who was a successful businessman with operations in several suburban cities. On Monday Chene learned that Jamie Richmond had once interviewed Morrissey and had shared all her research material with him, in the hopes it would lead to the killer. Jamie lives with Malone, another police officer.
Early Thursday morning I decided to recruit some help. Someone who was comfortable with research, who was used to digging deeper, who had a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective. So I made the call.
“Malone.” His voice was thick with sleep.
“It’s Chene. I’ve got a few more questions for Jamie. Is she around?”
There was a deep chuckle. “Yes, but she’s not coherent. You have any idea how early it is?”
“Sun’s been up for a couple of hours.”
“She’ll call you.” The phone went silent.
I remembered now that Malone worked afternoons, finishing his shift around midnight. No wonder I woke him up.
It was an hour before Jamie called back.
“Sorry, Chene, but I’m adjusted to Malone’s schedule. Neither one of us is functioning before nine. And even then it requires massive doses of caffeine.”
“No problem. I wanted to thank you again for your notes on Morrissey.”
“I hope they were helpful.”
“Indeed. But that leads me to a question. Do you know how he put together the money to buy the Shores Madrid?”
Dead silence followed for so long I thought the connection broke. I was about to check and see if there was still a signal when Jamie cursed.
“I don’t know. But that’s something I should have looked into when researching him. Damn it! How did I miss it?”
“You’re not the only one. Everything I can find seems to look like he just appeared on the scene at a city council meeting, with a proposal to buy the property for the amount of taxes due. Somewhere along the way, the theater had been foreclosed and the city ended up with it. They must have carried the previous owner’s debt in the hopes that they’d be able to bring it back.”
“But that doesn’t explain where he got the money.” There was a flicker of excitement in her voice. “I never saw anything about investors, silent or otherwise. There was nothing on the corporate records at the time beyond his wife and a couple of key people in management. I looked!”
“So you have any ideas about the money?”
“None.” She paused, as if weighing the options. “But I can look into it. I still have a lot of contacts. I’ll pull court records, public information, talk to a few friends and see what I can learn. This is important, isn’t it?”
“It could be.” I hesitated, weighing my options. “I can’t ask you to do this, Jamie. I’ll put one of the detectives on it.”
There was another pause, followed by a loud, raucous laugh. “Bullshit, Chene. You called me hoping I’d jump in.”
“No, I called you to ask about the money, not to draw you into part of an active police investigation.” I managed to sound sincere.
“You’re full of shit, Chene. And I’ll let you know when I have some answers.” Jamie was still laughing as she ended the call.
How did you decide on your story plot? I start out with a basic idea of a conflict. Then it’s a matter of selecting the main characters, putting them into the situation and letting them go. Despite the efforts of the good nuns in school, I can’t work with an outline. It’s too restrictive.
Do you have a favorite scene? Why? There is a favorite scene in each story I write. In the latest book, Chene is investigating a homicide. While interviewing one of the victim’s colleagues, she makes the sarcastic comment “your mother must be so proud.” Chene, who was orphaned at birth, shrugs and says “I don’t know. I never met her.” That added another dimension of tension between them that I was searching for.